Mercedes-Benz A-Class (2012-2018) Review logo

Mercedes-Benz A-Class (2012-2018) Review

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heycar review

      Launch year
      2012
      Body type
      Family hatch
      Fuel type
      Petrol, Diesel
heycar editorial team

Written by

heycar editorial team

00/10
heycar rating
“Appealing, attractive premium-brand hatchback”

Best bits

  • Sporty styling
  • Feelgood interior
  • Economical to run

Not so great

  • Limited rear-seat space
  • Pricier than many rivals
  • BMW 1 Series is better to drive

Read by

Mercedes A-Class front exterior

Overall verdict

Mercedes A-Class front interior

On the inside

Mercedes A-Class side exterior

Driving

Mercedes A-Class central console

How much does it cost to run

Mercedes A-Class boot open

Prices, versions and specification

Overall verdict

"Mercedes-Benz finally hit the premium hatchback bullseye with this generation of A-Class. Even today, it still looks fresh and attractive, and has a coupe-like feel inside, yet is surprisingly affordable to run. It’s not the most practical of cars, which will hinder its appeal for some, but otherwise it’s hard to find fault with a model that proved to be deserved sales success."

Mercedes A-Class front exterior

The third-generation A-Class was a breakthrough car for Mercedes-Benz. Launched in 2012, it marked a radical departure from the previous two models, which were more like small people carriers. These had boxy bodies and lots of room inside - clever, but increasingly less appealing to buyers who preferred style over space.


The revised A-Class had style by the bucketload – it still does today, in fact. The squat, sporty stance is very appealing, with great proportions and some bold details. Check out the feature lines on the body sides, the Mercedes-Benz coupe-style grille and the pert rear end.


It feels good inside as well. Gone is the boringly bland set-up of before, and in its place came a dashboard that could come straight from a higher-ranking Mercedes. It looks great, with bold metal air vents, sporty dials, a neat steering wheel and a high-mounted infotainment screen slap-bang in the middle.


It also delivers on the quality front, that inbuilt Mercedes-Benz robustness helping set it apart from more commonplace mainstream alternatives. Where it can’t quite measure up is in terms of rear-seat space. In complete contrast to the original two A-Class models, it feels pretty claustrophobic back there, and the door openings aren’t very large. At least the boot is a decent size.


Engines are all four-cylinder motors, with a range of petrol and diesel options. The entry-level ones aren’t very powerful, and it took Mercedes a few years to explore the sort of potency BMW offers in its 1 Series rival. Later Mercedes-AMG variants rectified that, and how! The A 45 AMG is genuinely explosive and quickly gained a cult following.


The A-Class handles in a neat and tidy way – again, much better than the top-heavy original cars (remember how the very first A-Class toppled over in the infamous ‘elk test’ in the 1990s?). The low-slung chassis is stable and safe, and models with bigger wheels offer a lot of grip. 


The front-wheel-drive set-up isn’t as engaging as a rear-driven BMW 1 Series, though, and arguably isn’t as much fun as something like a Ford Focus. Ride quality is also pretty firm, and you pay for the grip of models with bigger wheels with a crashier feel.  


In 2015, the A-Class was facelifted, with jewel-like headlights, new engines and a comprehensive update for the infotainment system. An enlarged screen of up to 8.0 inches was now available, making the interior even more appealing and stylish. And that A 45 AMG version was launched, its monstrous 381PS fed through a 4Matic all-wheel-drive system.


The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class arrived in 2018 to continue the successful formula established here. Its predecessor remains a very appealing buy – to some eyes, it’s actually a better-looking car. And with second-hand prices now starting from less than £10,000, now is the time to bag a bargain.


If you're looking for the newer version, you need our Mercedes A-Class (2018-) review.

Is the Mercedes-Benz A-Class right for you?

If you want a head-turning hatchback wearing the Mercedes-Benz three-pointed star, it’s hard to deny the appeal of the A-Class. It’s a refreshing alternative to a more humdrum hatch from a mainstream brand, because it looks so good on the outside and feels so special inside.


It’s pretty economical to run, too. The engines don’t use too much fuel and insurance ratings start from a relatively low group 13 – much cheaper than a larger Merc. It is set to enjoy continued strong resale values, and there are lots of Mercedes-Benz specialists out there to help keep maintenance costs in check.


If you regularly need to carry rear-seat passengers, however, it isn’t the best choice. It’s not as practical as something like a Volkswagen Golf, and nowhere near as roomy as the original A-Class. Mercedes-Benz does have an answer, though: check out the B-Class instead.

What’s the best Mercedes-Benz A-Class model/engine to choose?

Because it has such a sporty design, even base-spec versions of the A-Class look good. It won’t be all that obvious you’re driving the entry-level version either. Equipment levels are pretty good across the range. We like the sportier appearance of Sport models – and can’t help but find the racier AMG Sport version very alluring (albeit pricier to buy).


Engines are fine: A 180 petrol and diesel, A 200 petrol and diesel, A 220 diesel and A 250 petrol. Later on, a more economical A 160 petrol arrived, although performance is pretty weedy. We’d stick with the A 180 for best value, stepping up to the A 200 versions for better performance.


The A 250 turbo is a lot of fun and the A 45 AMG is brilliantly entertaining – although you’ll pay for it, particularly with the highly sought-after A 45. A quick test drive will soon reveal why.

What other cars are similar to the Mercedes-Benz A-Class?

This generation of A-Class belatedly enabled Mercedes-Benz to offer a genuine challenger to two other direct rivals: the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3. Both had been cleaning up in terms of sales for years, and this A-Class provided some long-overdue competition.


Those who don’t want to spend on a premium brand can find a similar experience in the slightly more affordable Volkswagen Golf. The Volvo V40 was also a contemporary alternative, although production has since stopped and the firm hasn’t (yet) replaced it.


For maximum value for money, try a mainstream brand – the Ford Focus is brilliant to drive, the Toyota Auris is boring but ultra-reliable, the Honda Civic is also ultra-reliable but a bit more interesting, and the SEAT Leon offers a sporty look for thousands less than the Merc. There’s a wildcard if you’re feeling particularly brave, too: the Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

Learn more

Mercedes A-Class front interior

On the inside

Mercedes A-Class side exterior

Driving

Mercedes A-Class central console

How much does it cost to run

Mercedes A-Class boot open

Prices, versions and specification